Iron Fist recap: Eight Diagram Dragon Palm
Season 1 | Episode 104 | “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm” | Aired March 17, 2017
Iron Fist certainly didn't start in a logical place in its season premiere. When a show's protagonist is a Kung-Fu master who spends 15 years training and eventually fights an unkillable dragon to gain superpowers, it shouldn't drag. But when you decide to spend three episodes circling an empty question (in this case, how does a man whose identity we already know prove his own identity) anything is possible. Nevertheless, it looks like Iron Fist may actually be pulling itself up out of the hole it spent the first three episodes trying to dig itself out of. They're not out of it yet, but frankly, it's pretty surprising they figured out that it was time to put down the shovel. Danny forms a soft alliance with all three members of the Meachum family. Colleen grapples with the responsibilities of running a dojo. Harold's decisions begin to have consequences for his children.
The central theme of the episode seems to be the kind of responsibility that people have to one and other. The episode begins with Danny waking up in Harold's secret penthouse base. Ward confesses to pushing Danny out the window, but they move past that pretty quickly. Harold reveals himself to Danny, and the three men have to hash out things between them. We find out that Harold actually did die, but that the Hand brought him back to life. Now he is their prisoner. Danny, whose destiny it is to destroy the Hand, is more than happy to help out with that little problem. In exchange, Harold tells Ward to drop the full court press on keeping Danny out of the company. They even give Danny his dad's old office. Harold and Danny seem pretty chummy, but Ward is anything but pleased, telling Danny to watch out for Harold.
The Meachum siblings hold a press conference to reintroduce Danny Rand to the world. Danny gives a quick little speech to the media trying to explain where he's been for the last 15 years. A few reporters ask him about his time in the asylum, but he handles it well, saying that Joy and Ward helped him find a doctor that would help him readjust to life in the city. After the press conference, Joy tells Danny that was a kinder answer than the siblings deserved. Danny gives a "that's what friends are for" style response. Then he goes into his office where he meets with Hogarth to sign the papers officially giving him his 51% of the company. She also explains that he has a controlling interest but doesn't have much of a job or anything.
We mentioned it before, but Finn Jones is really going for it in these scenes with the "Danny as a child" angle. It makes sense. His relationship to New York City, the company, and American corporate life were only defined in the context of a 10-year-old boy. So while that character decision is believable and exciting, it's jarring when he switches over from that innocence into the stern malice of the Iron Fist. Both are valid. Neither is more believable than the other. But they aren't meshing well. At least he's making character decisions now, though. That's a faster rate of improvement than some of the actors he's sharing the screen with.
On the subject of Danny's naiveté, his first order of business for the day is a board meeting. He wanders in late and drags a rolling chair all the way across the board room so that he can sit next to Joy. Then, once he catches up to what the presentation is about, he brings everything to a screeching halt. Ward is explaining to the board that they have invented a new drug that will save people from a life-threatening disease. The Rand Corporation can produce that drug for five dollars a pill. Their plan is to sell the drug for $50 a pill and make a whole boat-load of money. Danny, voting with his 51% share, tells the board that they will be selling the drug at cost. Here again, we see Danny going from the juvenile, chair reorganizing man-child to the strong and committed protector. Both make sense, but it's enough to induce whiplash.
Over at Colleen's dojo, the students are watching her cage fight from the previous episode. They are proud of and impressed by their sensei. But Colleen is ashamed of her actions. She tells her students that it is dishonorable to fight for money. But that night, she is back in the cage for another round. This time, The Daughter of the Dragon is fighting two men at once. She knocks the first one out handily and breaks the second's shoulder before knocking him out as well. When Colleen is in the cage, we see a dark rage in her. She may need the money, but it is becoming more and more apparent that she needs to hurt these people too.
After Danny's antics in the boardroom, Wade and Joy are nervous that their new majority shareholder can't be trusted in the office. So Joy takes on the responsibility of distracting Danny while Wade finishes up some business. Joy and Danny walk the streets of the city. Danny tells Joy about growing up with the monks. Joy tells Danny about having to be a business woman, and she sounds like she misses getting to be herself sometimes. Back at the office, Harold calls Wade to tell him to make sure the reporter from that morning doesn't go poking around the asylum story. Nobody in the Meachum family wants the public to know that they actually had Danny institutionalized. So Wade invites the reporter into the office and tells her about how unstable Danny is, using the story from the board meeting that morning as evidence.
Danny and Joy's walk takes them to Danny's hotel. Joy is impressed with the style of luxury Danny is living in. Danny tells her that he's uneasy about it. That living with the Monks was so hard that now comfort makes him uncomfortable. Danny talking about his training sounds awesome, and it would be great to actually get to see it. But that's seeming like more and more of a lost cause. Then, it happens. Thirty-six minutes into the fourth episode of the series, there's an actual action scene.
Some mean looking ninjas break into the hotel and try to kidnap Joy. They retreat down the hallway towards the elevator, throwing hatchets as they go. Danny goes the full Iron Fist, punching the hatches to pieces as he chases after, and eventually saves, Joy. The fight isn't perfectly choreographed. It feels almost as clunky as the dialogue. And the cinematography is questionable. But it's better than nothing. And so far that's been the only option.
Danny takes Joy to Colleen's dojo to hide out. Danny was able to catch some dialogue from the bad guys before their hasty retreat, and it turns out to be the exact right exchange he needed to hear! What are the odds? With the info Danny overheard, Colleen is able to point him in the direction of the Triad hideout, a restaurant they use as a cover. Danny goes there and tells them to leave Joy Meachum alone. The Triad boss tells Danny that Joy took their pier, so they'll pretty much do whatever they want. But when Danny mentions that they took the dock under order from the Hand, the Triad backs down.
The Hand's agents show up at Harold's penthouse. They force him to put a bag over his head and then take him for a ride. The same old woman who we have heard talking to Harold in previous scenes tells Harold that the Hand is pleased with him. They want to give him a reward. So they let him look out a window, across the street, at his daughter. Harold hasn't seen Joy since she was a child and he's very choked up. But when he sees that she's been hurt, he asks for one more favor. Dressed as a member of the Hand, and with a Hand escort, Harold goes to the restaurant and kills the Triad member who hurt Joy.
The next morning, Danny wakes to a front page newspaper article praising him for his decision to sell the life-saving medication at cost. Ther's also a mysterious gift at his door. Somebody has left him a red package. Inside there's a folded up note that reads "This is for the answers for which you seek." It's from the head of the Triad. Also in the package is a slip of paper with the emblem of a red dragon with no wings. As the episode ends, we push in on Danny's check where he has a giant mark of a winged dragon that looks just like the one on the paper.
It's nice to hopefully have the Danny vs. Meachum drama behind us. All of the back-and-forths about his identity just seemed so toothless. And now that the Hand has become more prominent and this pier deal is starting to have consequences, it seems like the show is dangerously close to having a plot. It shouldn't have taken four episodes to arrive, but now that it's here it seems like it could be exciting.
Who knows if Iron Fist will hold onto its positive momentum. Be sure to stick with us and see if those improvements actually do happen. Recaps will post at 8:00 am every day for the next two weeks. We will also have a special edition of the podcast at the end of the run of recaps. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all our ongoing Iron Fist coverage.